Monday, October 24, 2011

What Was Is and Will Be

All that I have left is all that I really had in the first place.

I'm a sculptor of perception and my medium of choice has been the Christian Faith.  I learned early on which levers to pull, which words to say, which looks to sport, which verses to quote in order to win the approval of the masses.  It worked.  The school kids called me "PK" (Preacher Kid).  Mr. Integrity in High School.  Mr. LCU in college. "Charley and Terrie, you must be so proud of your son!"  It worked so well I eventually landed what I had planned from the beginning - the big preaching gig! I had sculpted a perception masterpiece.  The problem?  Any perception built on any foundation other than God eventually caves in under its own weight.  And so it did with the "big preaching gig."

I was honored and thrilled that this prominent congregation had invited me to stand before them and offer a weekly Word from the Lord.  I also knew that despite its successful history the congregation was  currently in the early stages of organizational decline.  No problem, that's why I was being brought in (sounds pompous...  it was). Except that two months into the job my gut, or more likely the Spirit (sometimes I wish it were easier to decipher between the two), told me, "This isn't going to work." But there were voices out -talking my gut/Spirit.  My education said, "You have to give it two years before you can make any decisions!"  My experience said, "You are a trained theologian and minister."  My youth said, "You are exactly what this congregation needs to ride out of its slump into a new future."  My competitive nature said, "Taylor, you're not a quitter!"  In case you missed it, my pride and arrogance out-shouted my gut/Spirit.

"I mean, I am an excellent preacher.  I will win the crowd over in no time.  I will WOW them with my first sermon and by the end of the first month they'll be thanking the elders for hiring me!"  So I delivered my first sermon with all the passion I could muster, but the WOW was more of an "Uh-huh."  The WOW didn't show up at the second or third sermon either.  Second month? Nope.  Third? Nah.  Sixth?  No way; it was bad by then.  The comments were coming "Talks too fast.  Doesn't use enough scripture.  Irreverent. Illustrations don't make sense.  Can't understand him.  He is a left wing liberal...."  Now granted, preaching always comes with criticism and I had many opportunities to taste that bitter herb.  Once after a youth rally, an elder rebuked me publicly in front of the entire congregation. That tasted sweet! Another time, at a different congregation, a member transcribed a section from my sermon, wrote a three page rebuttal and then emailed it to all my elders with out my knowledge.  Criticism and I had gone on several dates.  It wasn't simply the criticism but the reality that it began to awaken in me, "You're not that good of a preacher!"  At that point, I often considered quitting preaching altogether with dreams of serving as a park ranger in some heavily forested state.  I realized the weight I put on my preaching was too much.  It was too shabby of a structure, and would never carry this congregation through.

With my preaching crumbling around me, I turned to my mad leadership skills.  "Come on, I have always been a leader: NHS President, Drama Club VP, Chorus Chaplain, Freshman Class President, Sophomore Class President, Meistersinger President."  I thought my credentials would speak for themselves.  But, this situation was different; overt leadership would fail.  I didn't have the chips, tenure, or respect to lead overtly.  I would implement second chair leadership: relational leadership, grassroots movements, invite outsiders with clout to speak into the situation, and use data...lots and lots of data.  I was confident... then less so...then not at all...then simply kissing failure right smack on the lips.  Throughout my leadership efforts several key individuals who I needed on board called my leadership ability into question.  KABOOM!  My leadership confidence exploded as my preaching collapsed around me.

"At least I still have my integrity and character!  At least... oh wait, HAD."  The majority of people would never have doubted my character and integrity and no one was going to take that from me.  They didn't have to because I sacrificed it all when I let my heart wander into places it never belonged, launching me into a four month run of betrayal, deception, selfishness, and cheating.  At that point... "Let's see, anyone out there respect me?  Can we see a showing of hands? Umm, anyone?  Anyone?  Ok, no one!"  So with my preaching crumbling around my exploding leadership I decided to strangle my character and integrity with my bare hands.

It all caved in... all of it and I was left with nothing - Preaching? NO.  Leadership? Funny.  Character and integrity? Shut up! - everything I had relied on for my identity.  All the little pieces I had woven into a beautiful tapestry and named "Charlton" were now shattered across the floor of my life.  I was left with nothing but God!  That's when it hit me; that's all I ever had, GOD!  Even when "I had it all," I really just had God.

All that I have left is all that I really had in the first place.


  1. First off, you were never as alone as the Devil was telling you you were. Many people offered prayers regularly on your behalf. Second, now that you have turned your life completely and humbly over to God, I am excited to see where your story leads you from here. Be patient and pe prayerful and take this time to heal yourself and those around you. God is faithful and he loves you, but he gives you those around you to help support you. Use what God gives you and watch for God in your life. Hang in there and I have a feeling that you will look back on all of this as the "marker" in your life someday. God Bless you and your family Charlton.

  2. Your honesty and transparency are painful to read. There is conviction for us all in your words. I pray God will not let any of your offering be lost and everything will bring him glory. I love you Charlton and praise God for where you are. He is busy revealing to us The Plan. Keep your eyes focused on him. Good stuff ahead.


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